701 club: case 1227/1305 - May 25 and June 18, 1952
The reader may ask why I have two cases this time. It is because these cases involved the same witnesses, which makes one won- der if they were just lucky to have observed two unknowns or were they just prone to making UFO reports.
Meet the Hoffmans
The witnesses to these two 1952 Blue Book Unknowns were actually involved in three UFO sightings that year. The first was determined to be “insufficient information” even though the witness did provide a lengthy description of their sighting. The primary witness was Mr. John Hoffman of Birmingham, Michigan. He was the principle witnesses in these sightings.
Mr. Hoffman seemed to be a rather emotional individual, who had a very strong opinion about the UFO subject. In a letter, dated May 14, 1952, Mr. Hoffman told Blue Book:
I have been a faithful believer and follower of flying saucer incidents as far back as 1948 and was of the opinion that they were a project of the U.S. Government, but after my recent experience which I am going to outline in detail, it has changed my belief entirely.
Coincidently, I happened to read the April 7th issue of Life Magazine which precedes my experience by a couple of weeks, explaining my actions, as you will note. 2
At the end of this letter describing his April 27th sighting, he would add:
....I firmly believe that this saucer was making a reconaissance tour over the area and if my report had been handled effeciently, we would be more intelligent position to know more clearly their intentions.
I further feel, with due respect to the Army, that “someone was sleeping at the switch”, or it is being kept “hush, hush”, that the public reaction would be mass histeria (sic) when the unknown definitely attempts to make contact with us (as has been proven in the past). Ex- perience has taught us that education toward events to come adjust the human mind to accept the phenomenons and cope with them.3
This is how Mr. Hoffman portrayed himself in 1952. He had come to the conclusion that UFOs were “craft” of some kind flown by some uknown individuals that were not part of the US government. He relies heavily on his readings about the UFO subject, which included the Life Magazine article from April 7, 1952. In that article, two scientists, Dr. Walther Riedel and Dr. Maurice A. Biot, voiced their opinions that UFOs were from outer space. If he was a follower of the subject, as he claimed, then Mr. Hoffman probably read Donald Keyhoe’s book “Flying Saucers are real” as well. That book also concluded that flying saucers were alien spaceships.
Personal belief can play a role in how an individual can interpret, and remember, events that they had witnessed. In my opinion, this was a critical factor in his reports to Blue Book.
April 27, 1952
On April 27, 1952, at 10:45PM, Mr Hoffman and his family were in the car near Royal Oak, Michigan. They had just turned to the west on “15 mile road”, when his wife noticed a UFO come from the northeast. It then stopped in a position that they could observe as they drove west. According to the witness, it was two miles north of them and about 3000 feet high. He also estimated the “ship” was 200 feet across:
It appeared to have two tiers of windows each about ten feet high which resembled looking into the playing section of a mouth organ. The windows were all around the entire diameter making visible the round flatness.4
The “ship” (as he described it) then “got its bearings” and drifted northwest at a speed of 100mph. John Hoffman drove west along 15 mile road following the UFO as it continued its trek. He stopped at a local drive-in and convinced two young men to come out and watch his UFO. Mr. Hoffman then called the Birmingham police and told them to alert all the airfields in the area. He then got back in the car and drove further west on 15 mile road in pursuit of the UFO, which seemed to always be northwest of his position and, despite traveling at 100 mph, did not outdistance the car driven by Hoffman even when he stopped his vehicle for minutes at a time. The UFO then blinked its lights three times. On the last blinking the lights went from bright white to yellowish-orange. At this point, Hoffman stopped his car again, to call the Detroit newspaper.
Disturbed that nobody seemed interested in his sighting, John Hoffman called the Birmingham police again, who seemed reluctant to do anything about his report. Upset by the inaction, he called Selfridge AFB himself and got the runaround. I supposed he did not realize it was late on Sunday night and there would not be a lot of individuals at the base, which explains why he had a hard time getting a hold of somebody in charge. Eventually, he got a hold of an individual, who he described as “an officer”. The officer told him he would report it, which, again, disappointed Mr. Hoffman, who seemed to want prompt action and fighter jets sent up to examine the UFO. According to USAF records, this phone call occurred at 1106PM and Mr. Hoffman had actually spoken to an airman second class (a low enlisted rank). Apparently, nobody else was available to answer his request and report it.5
While he was busy talking to the USAF on the phone, Mrs. Hoffman got the gas station attendant and a truck driver to observe the UFO. Satisfied that others had seen their UFO, the Hoffman’s got in the car and, once again, drove west on 15 mile road in pursuit Hoffman reports that the UFO disappeared over the tree tops in the direction of Flint, Michigan at 1115PM EST.
Probable explanation for April 27, 1952 sighting
The key to this sighting appears to be the direction of UFO being northwest of his position and disappearing in that direction behind the trees at 1115PM EST. Was there anything that matches that description? Well, for starters we have the moon, which was a few days old and located between azimuth 301-305 degrees (northwest is 315 degrees azimuth) between 2245 and 2315 PM EST. It set at 2336PM EST (see Stellarium image below for 1115 PM EST). One wonders why they did not notice the moon that night, which was very close to where the UFO was supposed to be.
Hoffman wrote that the southern half of the sky was cloudy, which hid the moon from view. However, he was wrong that it was to the south. It was in the direction he was looking. Weather observations for Detroit on that night were “clear” until 11PM when they reported “smoke” until noon on the 28th. 6 If there was a haze/smoky condition on that evening, it probably would give the moon an interesting appearance and cause it to be come distorted.
His sketch of the UFO bears a resemblance to a photograph of the crescent moon showing the same phase. 7
It appears that Mr. Hoffman and his family were probably observing the setting moon. The first part of the sighting, where the UFO came from the northeast may have been a meteor that drew their attention to the moon or may have been due to the motion of the car as they turned from going north to west at the intersection. In any case, there seems to be good reason to suspect this sighting was caused by the young crescent moon.
May 25, 1952
The next UFO report filed by the Hoffmans was slightly less than one month later on May 25, 1952. Don Berlinner describes the sighting as follows:
May 25, 1952; Walnut Lake, Michigan. 9:15 p.m. Witnesses: seven persons, including John Hoffman, his family and friends. One large white circular object having dark sections on its rim, flew straight and level for 30 minutes, appearing red when behind a cloud.8
Berlinner’s summary does not do the sighting justice. Mr. Hoffman reported that they initially thought it was the moon but then no- ticed it moving slowly west. In his report, he described the object as larger than the moon, white to yellow orange in color, noiseless, with no trail of any kind following it.9 John Hoffman estimated it to be 200 feet in diameter and 20 feet thick. It seemed to have light and darker areas on its periphery, suggesting windows. These were described as looking like“the side of an accordion.”the weather in the area was described as hazy, with stars dimly visible.
Like the April 27th event, the Hoffman’s got in their car and hoped to pursue the UFO. When they had first observed the UFO, the Hoffman’s had thought it was drifting westward. Now, as they drove, they noticed that the UFO was drifting northward. Twenty minutes after the initial sighting, it was getting lower and was going to pass behind a cloud. The Hoffmans had concluded that if they were chasing the moon, it would disappear behind the cloud. When it went behind the cloud, they noticed a red glow ema- nating from the cloud. After it came out of the cloud it was observed for ten more minutes as it approached the horizon. At this point, the Hoffman’s apparently got onto to US-24 and continued the pursuit. At one point, Mr. Hoffman tried to take photographs of his UFO but they did not turn out because he did not take time exposures. The sighting ended around 2145 on the 25th when the UFO was lost as they drove through the Pine Lake area.
Probable explanation for May 25, 1952 sighting
Once again, the key to this sighting is the direction in which the UFO disappeared. The witness reported that the UFO was mov- ing west and north. Once again, the moon was visible in the sky around an azimuth of 305 degrees and it moved in a north and west motion as it set. It was visible low on the horizon until it set at 1018PM EST (see Stellarium image below for time 2145 EST). If it wasn’ t the moon, the witnesses should have seen both and never suspected the UFO was the moon. This implies that, in all likelihood, the UFO was the moon.
June 18, 1952
Don Berlinner summarizes this sighting as:
June 18, 1952; Walnut Lake, Michigan. 10 p.m. Witnesses: Marron Hoffman and four relatives, using 4x binoculars. One orange light was observed zigzagging and then hovering for an unspecified length of time.10
The primary witness, Marron Hoffman, was the brother of John Hoffman, who was also present and provided the 4X binoculars. According to the report, John came out and watched the light in the western sky zig-zagging and remaining motionless. He went inside and reported the sighting to Selfridge AFB. When he came back out, he could not see the UFO anymore. Then he noticed it again in the west but it was now a white color. It shot straight up and disappeared. However, it reappeared again about 45 degrees above the western horizon. It slowly drifted towards the northwest and then disappeared. The object showed no shape and was the size of a star.11
Probable explanation for June 18, 1952 sighting
Of the three UFO sightings, this is one of the more puzzling and is hard to evaluate. There is a lot of information missing. However, it is possible that what they were observing were stars and planets (see Stellarium image bottom left for 10PM). The planet Mars was a bright orange object (mag -0.8) in the south-southwest around elevation 30 degrees. It drifted towards the southwest during the 45 minute observation. To the west of Mars were Saturn and the star Spica. The bright star Arcturus was in the western sky around 60 degrees elevation. Finally, the first magnitude star Regulus was visible in the west and set before midnight.
At the time of the sighting its elevation changed from 17 to 10 de- grees All of these might have been what he reported seeing. The auto-kinetic effect and unsteady hands using the binocu- lars could have produced some of the violent maneuvers being reported. Keys to this sighting are the description of the size and how the final object appeared to slowly drift towards the west. That appears to point towards Regulus as the final obser- vation. The “disappearance” could have been Regulus getting too low and disappearing behind trees and ground objects.
The only descriptions that appears to rule out stars are the sudden disappearances and that, at one point, the light shot upward. It is hard to say what the objects were without more substantial information that is provided in the report. However, I would classify this one as “possible stars” and not “unknown”.
One might also classify this as insufficient information.
The sightings of Hoffman
In evaluating these sightings, one has to consider the witness. In my opinion, Mr. John Hoffman’s openly expressed belief that UFOs were uknown craft of some kind indicated he was going to bias his reports in that manner. He might exaggerate perceived motion and details to the point the actual source would be unidentifiable. The fact that he confused the moon for a flying saucer in two of the three sightings makes one question the accuracy of the third sighting. After his third sighting, Mr. Hoffman saw no more flying saucers that he reported. It is possible that Hoffman simply gave up reporting these sightings because nobody was taking him seriously. I would classify the May 25 and April 27 sightings as the moon and the June 18th sighting as probable stars and planets. There is no reason to suspect these sightings really were of anything that was truly exotic and unknown to science.
Quelle: SUNlite 2/2015